New Mexico attorney general sides with Mexico against American gun makers in lawsuit

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Published Wednesday, March 29, 2023
by Tom Joyce

(The Center Square) - New Mexico attorney general Raul Torrez joined a coalition of 17 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting Mexico in an American lawsuit.

The Mexican government is suing American gun manufacturers, blaming them for the country's gun violence.

The attorneys general, including Torrez, filed their brief last week in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. 

The attorneys general want the district court decision that dismissed Mexico's suit overturned. They argue that under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), "gun manufacturers and dealers are not exempt from liability when they violate state or federal laws governing the sale and marketing of firearms," according to a press release from Torrez's office.

"States must be able to hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable for their dangerous marketing and selling tactics that puts our community at risk," Attorney General Torrez said in the release. "I am proud to join with attorneys general from across the nation to push back against these dangerous marketing tactics and protect our communities from gun violence."

About 70% of firearms recovered from Mexico from 2018 to 2020 originated in the United States, a 2020 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office says.

Under the PLCAA, the law can hold gun manufacturers and sellers can be held liable for misconduct when they knowingly break the law.

In its lawsuit, the Mexican government alleges that seven gun manufacturers and a distributor knowingly break the law to sell and market weapons they know are being illegally trafficked into Mexico.

In November 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed Mexico's claim. It argued common-law claims were barred by PLCAA. 

Mexico appealed its case to the First Circuit in response to the ruling.

The attorneys general told the court to reserve the district court decision in the amicus brief. They argue that the PLCAA does not protect the firearms industry from the potential role it has played in Mexico's gun violence problem.

"The coalition argues that, when Congress enacted PLCAA, it did so with the intention of striking a balance: exempting gun manufacturers and sellers from liability for harms inflicted solely because of third parties' unlawful conduct, while also expressly preserving liability where gun industry members themselves violate state or federal laws applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms," the press release from Torrez's office says. "PLCAA thus does not grant broad immunity for gun manufacturers and sellers and does not stand in the way of actions, like the one brought by Mexico, alleging that the defendants knowingly violated state or federal statutes applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms."

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell is leading the amicus brief. Other attorneys general that have signed onto it are from: California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai'i, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase products or services through links in an article. Prices, when displayed, are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time. Commissions do not influence editorial independence.

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